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A SHELTER FOR AN BINH ELEMENTARY SCHOOL

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Introduction of CGS to Cambodia

17 MAR 2012: The Catechesis of the Good Shepherd or CGS is an approach to faith formation for children.

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“It is possible to see a clear analogy between the mission of the Shepherd in the Church and that of the prudent and generous educator in the Montessori method, who with tenderness, with love and with a wise evaluation of gifts, knows how to discover and bring to light the most hidden virtues and capacities of the child.” 

Pope John XXIII

The Catechesis of the Good Shepherd or CGS is an approach to faith formation for children. It is a work based on the pedagogy of the renowned educator, Maria Montessori, a devout Italian Catholic. Begun in 1910, religious education using this method was introduced in “Children Houses in the Church” in Barcelona, Spain by the setting up of a catechetical space called atrium. Since its simple beginnings, CGS has undergone enormous development under Hebrew scholar Sophia Cavalletti and her Montessori co-worker Gianna Gobi.

Introduced in Singapore less than 10 years ago, CGS has grown like the mustard seed into quite a big bush. There are now 9 atrias in Singapore and a few hundred people have received training in the approach.

A few years ago, 2 CGS trained catechists from Singapore, Simone and Audrey, were on a mission trip in Cambodia when they felt called to share the love of the Good Shepherd with the children there. Their spontaneous decision  to present the nativity of Jesus using the CGS method was very well received. The children absolutely loved it and the ‘mustard seed’ was sown.

Last year, two sisters from the order of Francis de Sales in Cambodia, Sr. Marinella and Sr. Myhan  attended the training conducted by Australian CGS trainers in Singapore. This was at the invitation of ACTS (A Call to Share), a Singapore church group set up to share the joy of Christmas among the less unfortunate in Cambodia.  Sr. Myhan shared, ‘The CGS approach will bring the love of the Good Shepherd to the orphaned children in Cambodia. They have experienced much pain, so they need to encounter the Lord in a concrete and personal way.’

 

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Bishop Kiki, very much a child with the Good Shepherd.

By the grace of God’s providence and some planning on the part of the organisers of ACT, a group of CGS catechists including myself participated in the mission trip to Cambodia last December.

 

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Bishop Oliver who believes that catechesis must begin with the heart

We had the opportunity to share some CGS works with His Excellencies Bishop Olivier of Phnom Penh and Bishop Kiki of Battambang, who fell in love with the works. We were also priviledged to have the presence of our Grace, Archbishop Nicholas Chia, Fr Geno Hendricks and Fr David Garcia.

 

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CGS sessions for the children at Toul Kork and Terk Tehla

While in Cambodia, we also conducted some CGS sessions for the children at Toul Kork and Terk Tehla. For those of us who were involved, it was a joyful journey of witnessing to young girls, hungry and eager to know the shepherd who calls them by name, the shepherd who loves them and lays down his life for them. It was humbling to see them encounter the baby Jesus, who brings hope to everyone, including themselves.

 

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Rewarded by the smiles and joy of the children

Our effort to help them discover the wonderful gift of The Light given at Christmas was rewarded by the smiles and joy of the children, which are captured in some of these photos. We hope that this small project begun last Advent will help the mysterious and powerful seed within the girls to germinate and lead to a greater awareness of themselves as gifts.

 

What does the future hold for CGS in Cambodia? Like the mustard seed, it will grow slowly but steadily despite the issues of limited facilities and resources. And from our experience in Cambodia, one thing is certain; we will continue to follow the Good Shepherd’s voice and bring CGS wherever and whenever he calls us.

Article contributed by Julie Ong